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Sal Mortillaro II's picture

Judge's Review: 95 Rating - Zwart Black Star by De Proef Brouwerij

November, 2018
Judges Rating: 
23 / 24
6 / 6
38 / 40
10 / 10
Overall Impression: 
18 / 20

Zwart Black Star by De Proef Brouwerij and Surly Brewing Co., is being evaluated as a Mixed-Style Beer (Category 34B) according to the 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines due to its use of wood, spices, and Brettanomyces in an Old Ale (Category 17B) base beer.

This beer pours a light brown with hazy clarity. A foamy, persistent, beige-colored head is persistent throughout the beer and leaves a nice lacing on the sides of the glass as the beer is drunk. This beer has a very interesting, unique and layered aroma. The apparent malt sweetness in the beer is first noticeable consisting of light molasses, treacle, and a nutty undertone. As the beer warms, light wisps of alcohol are apparent suggesting a stronger ABV. There is a light spicy note from the anise though this takes a backseat to the malt aromas. The Brettanomyces is apparent and provides a slight leathery and fruity aroma, which complements the malt well. There is no hop aroma in this beer. Just like the aroma, this beer is quite layered and complex. The moderate malt sweetness in this beer blends quite well with candied fruit flavors of plum and low levels of dark cherry, which also works quite nicely off the fruity and leathery notes of the Brettanomyces. There is a moderate level of hop bitterness with no hop flavor in the beer, but this takes a backseat to the malt and Brettanomyces character. There is a low-level tartness in this beer which, along with the Brettanomyces, light spice notes from the Star Anise, and barrel notes helps aid in a dryness in the finish. Malt flavors of cherry, leather and a light funk linger in the aftertaste. The beer consists of a medium body with low carbonation. There is a slight alcohol warmth noted in this beer. There is a very light astringency in this beer from the use of the spice and use of the barrel, but is by no means offensive and aids in the overall mouthfeel of the beer. Overall, this a lovely treat! This beer is a medley of complex aromas and flavors that was well executed as a whole and I found the beer to be in perfect harmony. I hope to acquire another can to see what time does to further develop the Brettanomyces character and its interaction with the malt. The spice aspect and higher ABV make this quite the sipping beer for the holidays for a cold winter night with friends.